By Skylar Zachian || Contributing Writer
Breaking news: Olivia Rodrigo has received the title of Billboard’s 2022 Woman of the Year. Now, you might be asking yourself—wait a minute, the girl from Bizaardvark? The girl who only has one album, in which nine of the songs throw her ex-boyfriend, Joshua Bassett, under the bus? She’s only 18! She literally plays the role of a fork in season two of High School Musical The Musical: The Series. Yes, this is all true, but I am here to convince you that Olivia Rodrigo is much more than a Disney actress who is perpetually upset about her ex-boyfriend’s infatuation with Sabrina Carpenter. In my somewhat (extremely) biased opinion as a major Olivia Rodrigo fan, I will attempt to shed light on my sheer excitement regarding Olivia’s most recent accomplishment.
In January of 2021 when the pandemic was hitting us hard, Olivia Rodrigo gifted us with her song “driver’s license”. Within mere days of its release, the single set Spotify’s record for most streams in a day. Her album Sour, released in May 2021, made history: among other countless milestones, Sour quickly broke the record for most songs on the Billboard Top 10 at one time.
Its popularity led to a partnership with “Sour Patch Kids”—which essentially meant that a picture of Olivia’s face would be stamped on jumbo boxes of the candy. This sparked many fan theories, which hypothesized that Olivia’s next album would be called Sweet, due to the iconic catchphrase, “first they’re sour, then they’re sweet.” The album had quite literally just been released, and fans were already eager for more music—music which would perhaps reflect on the sweeter moments of Olivia’s past relationships and life experiences. Olivia even held a “Sour Prom” where fans were invited to watch a video, running close to 30 minutes long, featuring a never-before-seen performance of six of the eleven songs on Olivia’s album.
But what is it that made her so popular?
Although Olivia draws much of her inspiration from Taylor Swift, the essence of her music is strikingly original. driver’s license, the first song that she released into the world, tells a sentimental story of her past relationship through the lens of a nearly-universal rite of passage—getting a driver’s license. Olivia expresses the bittersweet feeling of legally having the freedom to travel anywhere on her own, yet being unable to move into the future without being dragged into the past. This song practically calls out to listeners: jump in the car, pick up a couple of friends, drive around with the windows down, and sing your heart out in empathy. Even if we can’t relate to her exact situation, the song is catchy and addictive. It makes listeners imagine themselves in an alternative universe where they do relate.
Her song good 4 u offers an edgier alternative with enough passion and spunk to let out rage on any bad day. In fact, Olivia’s songs tug on our heartstrings so much so that it became a trend on TikTok for girls to ask their boyfriends to break up with them for 34 minutes and 31 seconds—they wanted to listen to the entirety of Sour and fully relate to Olivia on as deep a level as possible. However, her album touches on much more than just relationships. For example, jealousy, jealousy perfectly encapsulates the feelings of envy that teenagers experience every single day when mindlessly scrolling through social media and being presented with perfectly posed pictures of others living their best lives.
Some may argue that the popularity of these songs is mostly due to the conspiracies behind them, mainly the speculation that Josh cheated on Olivia, but the truth is that these songs, no matter the subject behind them, encourage our generation to be vulnerable, honest, and open with ourselves. Olivia Rodrigo has started a movement: quite literally the entire world has come together to prove that music can connect us to one another and heal parts of ourselves that we didn’t know needed healing. By listening to Olivia Rodrigo, we step fully and vividly into her shoes. In a way, Olivia winning Billboard’s title of “Woman of the Year” is also a win for each and every one of her listeners. So, I conclude that Olivia Rodrigo, the kid from that Disney show Bizaardvark who had a messy breakup with her boyfriend and made an album during quarantine, fully deserves to be known as Billboard’s 2022 “Woman of the Year”.
First-year Skylar Zachian is a contributing writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.